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What Happened to ArtPalmBeach?

January 28th, 2015

After a whirlwind trip to Miami for Art Basel Miami Beach, we look forward to our yearly day trip to ArtPalmBeach, an intimate fair consisting of about 85 international galleries dedicated to contemporary, emerging, and modern master works of art. We love coming to this fair because it is so relaxed, and we always find some standout pieces. This year, however, we were stunned at the underwhelming nature of the fair.

We started our day at Galley Biba catching up with Sarah Gates, Director of Gallery Biba. Gallery Biba is located on Worth Avenue, and we are always impressed with their stable of artists and the work on display. Our favorite works from the current exhibition were these intricately gorgeous paintings by artist Jenness Cortez, and of course we could not resist Jonathan Stein’s extravagantly sparkly Bee Mine reservedly priced at $120,000.

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Alya and Sarah Gates

Jenness Cortez

Jenness Cortez, Alluring, 2013, acrylic on mahogany panel, 40 x 30 in.

Stein Rose with Bee

Jonathan Stein, Bee Mine, 2013, bronze and Swarovski crystals, 29 x 29 x 10in.

After lunch at Taboo on Worth Avenue, we headed over to the Convention Center. We were eagerly anticipating which artist was selected to design the special project of the fair, usually a grand installation piece right at the entrance. Last year, Adela Andea had a mesmerizing mixed media/new media site-specific installation that encouraged visitors to walk through a technological enchanted forest. This year (as if foreshadowing the vibe of the fair), a lackluster mixed media installation by Daniella Sheinman titled String Line “greeted” visitors. We actually didn’t notice the installation until our third walkthrough down the aisle of booths. It wasn’t necessarily bad and we didn’t hate it, but it just didn’t live up to expectations set by the year before.

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Daniella Sheinman String Line

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Adela Andea (2014)

There was actually an installation hidden on the side of the fair that could have made a much more brilliant entrance – a WWII Sherman Tank titled Extra meant “to bring awareness to the complexity of the global media system by exposing the industry’s barraging exploitation of war.”

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Extra Ignacio Irazoqui

Look, the fair has always been a balanced mix of some fine crafts and fine art. The glassworks showcased at the fair are always technically impressive. This year, however, it was as if the craft side of the fair took over; it was sort of a cross between an art fair and an art festival featuring kitschy wearable “art” and jewelry. The fine art that was shown was either the same exact work as last year in the same space, or the same exact work we just saw at Art Basel Miami Beach dragged to this fair. Oh, and let’s not forget the booths peddling condos and magazines…did we miss something or did we not attend an art fair. Usually you can’t escape the art publication booths at art fairs, but real estate…come on!

We did MANAGE to find a few works and experiences that caught our attention:

First, of course, were Stephen Knapp’s new light works. These literally brightened our day and were a breath of fresh air.

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Works by Stephen Knapp

Next, the highlight and most entertaining part of the fair, was meeting photographer, James Weber. James spent a generous amount of time giving us a tutorial on how to use his antique, 19th century camera, which produces daguerreotypes. James’s works with this camera embody a sense of nostalgia and transport both the subject and viewer back in history. Not only did James let us play with his camera, but he also invited us to visit his Chelsea studio in NYC during Armory week (stay tuned for a blog post about that!).

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Alya and photographer James Weber

After our amazing encounter with James, Vincent Harrison of Castle Fitzjohns Gallery took the initiative and brought to our attention the works of Bradley Hart and Sam Tufnell. Hart’s works were impressive – he injects acrylic paint into bubble wrap (each individual bubble!) to create “pixilated photorealistic” compositions.

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Bradley Hart, detail of Wall St., 2013, acrylic paint, injected bubble wrap, 67 x 85 in.

Tufnell’s still life sculptures, made out of cast acrylic resin, of random but everyday objects cheekily “form a symbol of who we are as people as well as what our status is in society the same way the old masters would render jewelry or game birds to reflect the status of their patrons.”

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Sam Tufnell, Still Life 10, South Beach Diet V, cast acrylic resin, 36 x 12 x 42 in.

There was one last work that we both gravitated to as we were walking out the fair; a beautiful oil on canvas piece, which combined our two loves: books and horses. It was very subtly stunning.

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Lee Sukju, Space-Contemplation, 2014, oil on canvas

Ironically enough the most popular booth during the time we were there – the one that you couldn’t even enter it was so packed with people – was the booth featuring the wearable art! Gimmicky to say the least…and that’s describing the fair.

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